One pastor and his staff considered whether their congregation should accept people with a history of abuse.
On Sunday mornings at New York Chinese Alliance Church, where I pastor, several different ethnic congregations come to listen to God’s Word in their mother tongues. Parents drop off their youngsters for children’s worship and Sunday school. Youth gather for fellowship and Bible study.
Our seasoned ushers always try to welcome every familiar face and newcomer into the house of God with a warm smile. And while their primary goal is to meet and greet each person, our church has also trained them to identify acute needs and flag any potential concerns among the congregation.
We have a congregant with a history of incarceration who often invites other formerly incarcerated men and women to church. And although we are happy for the opportunity to minister to such individuals, we try to be discerning in how to best serve them in the context of the larger community.
One Sunday morning this year, this congregant invited a new visitor who triggered a sense of concern. When the ushers decided to inquire about the newcomer, they discovered that he was a registered sex offender. And while they still welcomed him as a first-time guest, they also wanted to protect our other congregants—and so they decided to inform our pastors and governing board members.
Prayerfully, our church leadership identified a spiritually mature member to accompany the young man for the remainder of the service, and he was able to enjoy fellowship with other members throughout the afternoon.
As a medium-sized Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, we realized we were woefully unprepared—having no explicit policies written to address these kinds of situations. Our governing board had never had to consider how to enable someone seeking God to find him in our fellowship, while still ensuring the safety of young children and adolescents in our congregation.